This year has been a notable one for priestly jubilees in Glasgow- to name but a few, the Golden Jubilees of Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick, Fr, Willie Slavin, Fr. Hugh O’Donnell and Fr. Noel Colford, the Silver Jubilees of those ordained in the memorable service in the Kelvin Hall (including Fr. John Gannon, Fr. John Carroll and Mgr Hugh Bradley) and now the Diamond Jubilee of Fr. Noel Murray.
This last-mentioned celebration took place in St. Aloysius’ Springburn on 29th June. The church was crowded with parishioners and there were also representatives from other churches, from local and national politics. Archbishop Tartaglia and over 20 priests, as well as a veritable squad of altar servers, joined Fr. Noel and parish priest Fr. John McGrath to celebrate the Mass and the St. Mungo Singers joined the parish music group to support the music of the liturgy.
The opening processional hymn, “I Cannot Tell How He Whom Angels Worship”, sung to the tune “Londonderry Air” was very suitable for the jubilee of Fr. Noel, a native of Ireland, born in Lusk in 1925. Fr. John in his homily, said his questions to Fr. Noel had been firstly what was he going to do now that he had reached this momentous marker – the answer was “probably play the harp!” – and did it feel like 60 years, 40 of them in Springburn? He revealed a fact which would have been surprising to some present, that Fr. Noel had been ordained for Paisley Diocese but because Paisley had a surplus (!) of priests then, he had been invited to go on loan to Glasgow and the loan had lasted for 60 years! He had the congregation laughing when he informed them that Bishop Keenan in his recent Mass for the Jubilarians had asked Fr. Noel if he forgave Paisley for this.
Fr. Noel had been born into a strong Catholic family which had proved a seedbed for vocations, with another brother a priest and a sister a Domincan nun in South Africa. Fr. John suggested it was a very appropriate day to celebrate his priesthood, being the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Peter had nurtured the Jewish Christian church and Paul had travelled thousands of miles to preach the Gospel. Fr. Noel in turn had shown great courage in coming to a “foreign land” and had, like St. Peter, built up the home church. He was known to all as a man of prayer and continues to celebrate Mass in the Parish at least once a week.
He thanked Fr. Noel for his gift of 60 years to the parish and his lifetime spent in the service of God, and he took the opportunity to suggest to the young people present in the congregation that they might consider whether God was asking something similar of them.
At the end of what was a very uplifting liturgy, Fr. Noel was presented with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima to mark the occasion. Then everyone was invited to mark it by joining Fr. Noel and the parishioners in the parish hall, where generous hospitality made clear the esteem in which he was held.